There was some mixed news for residents of the Carolinas as The Weather Channel reports that Hurricane Florence has lowered to a category three storm.
That would seem to be good news, giving North and South Carolina some much-needed relief, but it may in some ways be bad news as the reduction in the category means that the storm is decreasing in speed, giving signs that it will be staying in the area for several days.
With the speed lowering, Florence is expected to move slowly either just off the Carolinas’ coast or along the coastline until at least Saturday. With the storm moving so slowly, major flooding and storm surges are expected to occur in the area well before and after landfall.
The National Hurricane Center measured wave heights of up to 83 feet near the eye of the storm, something that would be catastrophic for any town that would be in the path of those surges coming up from the ocean.
The entire Carolina coast is under a hurricane warning or a hurricane watch with the cities of Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and Hatteras all in the path of Florence. A warning, which applies from just south of Myrtle Beach up to the North Carolina-Virginia border, means hurricane conditions are being expected within 36 hours, while a watch, which applies from Charleston to the South Carolina-Georgia border, means the conditions are expected within 48 hours.
Wave heights to 83 ft were measured early this morning under the NE quadrant of Hurricane Florence. These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction the storm's motion. #HurricaneFlorence https://t.co/26J6Uogt6o pic.twitter.com/mdjGD5yibg
— NHC_TAFB (@NHC_TAFB) September 12, 2018
The National Weather Service in Wilmington has been one of the most active in tracking the storm and said, “This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.” That has led to mandatory evacuations, with the Inquisitr reporting that over 1.5 million people have evacuated from the path of the storm.
Like Hurricane Harvey, which remained over Houston for several days, the path of Florence has stalled due to a high-pressure system weakening, slowing down the storm along its path. That projected path has Florence turning when it hits North Carolina and running down along the coast toward Georgia.
Despite being lowered to a Category 3 storm, the winds will still be very strong, with winds projected at 120 mph when it hits the Carolina coast just north of Wilmington on Friday. The winds will be even stronger leading up to landfall, with winds currently recorded at over 145 mph.
As with any hurricane, it is flooding that will have the biggest impact, with projections of surges over two feet in parts of North Carolina. Those surges are predicted to arrive on Thursday night and continue through the weekend, leading officials to call for evacuations before the surges arrive, while people can still leave the area.
Things can change quickly and residents have been urged to keep an eye on forecasts with Florence’s wind speed jumping from 75 mph to 130 mph in one day.